I’m not sure about your children’s education situation, but my kids go to a charter school. For some people, sending their child to public school is akin to throwing them out on the street with nothing but a can of Yahoo and a comic book. For me, it’s heaven.
Their peer group, and teachers, have more skin colors than Joseph’s amazing technicolor coat. There are at least 20 moms and dads I can call last-minute if I’m running late for pickup. One mom, who reads this column, met me at 830 this morning to give me a few bottles of GABA that her daughter wasn’t using. “I read your blog,” she wrote me last week, “I have some extra if you want it.” Doesn’t get better than that. (Thank you, friend! You know who you are!)
Our school isn’t perfect. If Tuskany were a blogger (which she isn’t because she actually has a strong sense of boundaries and privacy, unlike some people she knows… ahem) she’d tell you many stories about my freak outs. “Some kids are ganging up on Stink at the play ball courts!… This one teacher thinks Tourettes is spelled Tooretts and is the reason Stink is into fart jokes!”
Yup, some of the kids over the years have been rough around the edges. And some of the teachers weren’t what I’d call Mary Poppins perfect, nor insightful. But isn’t that what school is about? To learn how to accept differences, stand up for oneself when things aren’t fair, fail, grow, rinse and repeat?
Lest I sound like St. Andrea, Patron of the Los Angeles School system, I didn’t always feel this way. Sure, I wanted my baby kinder to go there, but in all truth, I was terrified. On his first day of school, I introduced myself to a man with long hair, striped socks and George Michael shorts. I thought he was an eccentric big brother. “Hi, I’m a new mom, Mrs. Frazer,” I said, giving him my hand. He shook it with exuberance, smiled and declared, “I’m one of the assistant teachers… Chachi!” I almost passed out.
Stink’s new school was very developmental. It used buzzed words like “engaging the student” and “peaceful learning circles.” Some people might think, “Whole Child! Montessori style nirvana!” I’m an ex-Catholic school girl. My thoughts ran more along the lines of, “Tree huggers! Unicorns! Ruuun!”
Before you judge, Stink was my first to go to school, and I had a big diagnosis in my pocket. For some people, a few tics and a T.S. label wouldn’t sound so daunting. But for me? It produced nausea-inducing fear. “What if he got worse? What if other kids noticed? And worse, what if he was made fun of?” I ruminated.
In retrospect, I made myself crazier than I needed to be. While it’s normal to have concerns, I didn’t put mine to rest easily. If only I had someone to guide me… to tell me that it would be okay. I wish I knew that even if he ticked to the point of cursing (my biggest worry) he’d still be okay. Why? Because who Stink is, not what he does, is what counts.
Little by little, I began to cut the cord. I started being less concerned with who I wanted Stink to be. I started truly enjoying who he was. So what if he’s not into sports. So what if he has a hair-do resembling a bed-headed Beetle. So what if he still likes Pokemon while other kids are into baseball cards. It really doesn’t matter one bit what other children are doing. What matters is what my kid is doing. And best of all, he’s happy and content.
He’s not the only one. If I was ever not sure about my big leap of faith into the chasm of the L.A. charter school, yesterday’s letter from his teacher sealed the deal.
I had written to her about Stink’s tics which, well, are still pretty intense. I had told her that I didn’t want her to be afraid of bringing the situation up to me. After all, as much as my son deserves to make a few sounds and twitches, other kids deserve to learn. If it becomes disruptive, I’d be open to accommodations.
After a brief note back from her, reassuring me that no one is bugged by his tics (minus one kid who goes into the office sometimes for solitude), I wrote back. I thanked her, as well as informed her that I knew Stink was in good hands. I told her I wouldn’t harp on the tics anymore and asked, instead, if she would keep me abreast of his focus issues.
This is what I got back – everything verbatim but the names.
Please don’t feel as though we can’t talk about Stink’s tics. I have no concerns about you worrying about his tics, and how it may impact his learning in the classroom! That’s like me blaming you for being a caring mother! So, talk to me about his tics anytime, and I will inform you if it gets to be too much for the other kids. They know to accept him, and treat him with compassion and respect. No one in class talks about Stink in a negative light; I will not tolerate that.
I think as long as he makes a conscientious effort to stay focused, he can do it. By the way, I reviewed his essay with him today, and gave him a few recommendations…like transition sentences between paragraphs, topic sentences for each paragraph (that are not, “I’m going to talk about…), expanding his ideas, etc. I’m not sure he will revise independently, tomorrow or not. I think that he is under the impression that he is done. Maybe once he types it up, he can take it home and have you look it over with him.
The Most Amazing Teacher on the Planet
You’re doing great, Andrea.
Find a school with teachers like this. It can make all the difference in your kid’s journey. It can also keep you from running off with a Highlander and drinking a vat of Two Buck Chuck.
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Tics or not, where does your child go to school? What makes you love it and why? What makes you not love it and why? Would really love to hear.